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ALEXANDER  VON  HTJMBOLBT.                   49
vince of 3STew Andalusia, which were only too soon
realized. On the 12th August, the wanderers, after
mxich climbing, reached the chief station of the
Chaymas mission, the cloister Oaripe, where Hum-
bolclt passed some especially calm and beautiful nights,
which he did not forget in later years. "Nothing,"
he says, "can be compared to the solemn repose which
the contemplation of the starry heaven in this desert
^affords/' When at the fall of night his eye rested on
the meadow-plains bounding the horizon, he seemed
to see the starry vault of heaven supported by the
surface of the sea. The tree beneath whose shade he
was resting, the luminous insects floating in the air,
the bright southern constellations, all this forcibly
reminded him of the distance from his home ; and
when, in the midst of this foreign nature, the cowbells
or the bull's bellow was suddenly heard from the
valley, then the memory of the fatherland rose
brightly before him. Humboldt celebrated here a
solemn reminiscence of home ; these sounds seemed
to him as distant voices from beyond the sea which
transported him to the other hemisphere, and the
inexhaustible spring of joy and of sorrow gushed forth
in his imagination.
On beautiful mountain paths alternating with
marshy, heavy roads, Humboldt and his companion
vinitecl the other stations of this mission, especially
San Antonio, and Gxianagu&na; and he also visited
the Guacharo cave, situated in the Caripe vale. This
cave is the dwelling-place of a night-bird, freqxiently
found here, which cannot bear the light of day, is
three and a half feet in breadth across the wings j which
titters an unpleasant scream, echoing along the vaulted
cave; and which, strange to say, lives exclusively on
grain. Humboldt was the first who brought intelligence
of this cave to Europe, in which, according to the belief
of the aborigines, the spirits of the departed dwell; and
which, therefore, no one enters, from religious dread.
When Humboldt and Bonpland had, with great per-
severance, completed Jiheir drawings, and had packed